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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "Flower of the Peony"

Flower of the Peony

But Sada wept and said, “My mistress will die.”

“To fight in the field, to flatter at Court and to speak in Council, all these are easy,” said the daimyo, “but preserve me from the affairs of my women, for they are too hard for me.”

With that he made a search of all the castle and the castle grounds, but not a trace did he find of any stranger in hiding.

That night the Lady Aya called piteously for the cooler air, so they bore her out on to her garden gallery, where she lay in O Sada’s arms. A minstrel of the household took his biwa, and to soothe her he made this song:

“Music of my lute— Is it born, does it die, Is it truth or a lie? Whence, whence and where, Enchanted air? Music of my lute Is mute.

“Sweet scents in the night— Do they float, do they seem, Are they essence of dream, Or thus are they said The thoughts of the Dead? Sweet scents in the night Delight.”

Now, while the minstrel sang and touched his instrument, a fair youth stood up from the rosy sea of peonies by the pond. All there saw him clearly, his bright eyes, his sword, and his dress broidered with flowers. The Lady Aya gave a wild cry and ran to the edge of the garden gallery, holding out her white arms. And immediately the vision passed away. But the minstrel took up his biwa once more and sang:

“Love more strange than death— Is it longer than life, Is it hotter than strife? Strong, strong and blind, Transcending kind— Love more strange than death Or breath.”

At this the mysterious knight of the flowers stood once again straight and tall, and his shining eyes were fixed upon the Lady Aya.

Then a gentleman of the company of the daimyo, who was a mighty man of war, drew his sword forthwith and leapt down amongst the peonies to do battle with the bold stranger that so gazed upon his master’s daughter. And at that a cloud drew across the moon’s face as if by faery, and of a sudden a great hot wind blew from the south. The lights died upon the garden gallery, the maidens held their garments together while their long gossamer sleeves floated out.

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